With expenses, overhead, bottom line, and the still somewhat struggling economy to consider, even large companies are reconsidering the health care insurance they offer their employees.
So how much more do startup and small business owners feel the crunch when it comes to their employees’ health needs and concerns?
Unless your company is located on one of the Hawai’ian islands, a health plan is not something that you are legally obligated to provide your employees. This may be the only reason that you’re glad you located your new startup in Kankakee, Illinois, rather than Kailua on O’ahu.
Although it may not be a legal obligation for an employer, is providing health insurance still a good idea even for money-strapped entrepreneurs just getting their startup operational? Many polls, surveys and bottom lines would say “yes.”
Health insurance, along with other optional benefits, are rightly seen as part of a company’s recruiting and retention strategy. It helps attract the best employees and then helps keep them from jumping ship.
So, if you do decide to provide health insurance, what are your options? And if you decide that you really cannot provide it, what alternative offerings can help assuage that news?
Offering Health Insurance
Here are some approaches that can help make providing health insurance for your employees easier on you:
- Use a health insurance broker. They are not tied to any one company or plan and can find plan options for you that fit you and your employees the best. They can also help you negotiate your annual premium initially and upon renewal — and can find perks to include at no extra cost to you (like discounted gym memberships).
- Use the SHOP (Small Business Health Options) exchange now available with the Affordable Care Act. This is the federal (or state) insurance “marketplace” where you can shop for small business health care plans to offer your employees and from which they can choose.
- Provide a high-deductible group plan along with an HRA (health reimbursement arrangement) to help relieve some of your employees’ medical expenses.
- Offer voluntary/supplementary insurance to help employees with out-of-pocket expenses.
- Consider direct primary care where doctors partner with employers to provide affordable primary and preventive care for a fixed monthly fee. Combining this with a high-deductible group plan can be an excellent and affordable option for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
- Offer individual rather than group plans. This may not be popular with your employees at first, but you can show them how they may be better off with this type of plan (and so might you).
Offering Alternative Benefits
If you decide you can’t offer health insurance to those working for you, choosing from the following 12 alternatives will go a long way in helping them improve and maintain their health and showing that you care about them. (Of course, they’d really love you if you offered these on top of insurance!)
- Generous paid holidays, sick/vacation days
- Parking or public transportation pass
- Discounted or free gym membership
- Paid-for or discounted healthy buys like an iFit, weight-loss program, DVD/online programs (DailyBurn, Zumba, Yoga, etc.), bicycle, tennis racket, and quality blender (smoothies!)
- Paid-for or discounted on-site visits by a nutritionist, massage therapist, and/or chiropractor (and depending on your business, you could offer the practitioner in-kind payment rather than money)
- Ergonomic desk and chair
- Break room (fridge, microwave, filtered water, knives/cutting board, toaster)
- Complimentary fresh fruit/veggies, juice/tea/coffee, healthy snacks (but no soda)
- On-site basketball half-court, ping pong table, treadmill and/or stationary bike
- Team activities (Frisbee golf, volleyball, ropes course, wall climbing, bowling…)
- Nap room/pod
- Year-end bonuses, gift cards, raffle for nice items (iPad, weekend getaway….)
Just remember, whether you offer health insurance and/or any of these or other alternatives, you don’t have to offer everything at once and at first. As your business and profits grow, you can upgrade existing benefits and add new ones to your benefits package.
Gym Workout Photo via Shutterstock
This article, “Heathcare for Startups: 6 Payment Options, 12 Alternatives” was first published on Small Business Trends